The Works of Aristotle - CHAPTER II.OF CONCEPTION; WHAT IT IS, THE SIGNS THEREOF, WHETHER OF A MALE OR FEMALE; HOW WOMEN ARE TO ORDER THEMSELVES AFTER CONCEPTION.

CHAPTER II.OF CONCEPTION; WHAT IT IS, THE SIGNS THEREOF, WHETHER OF A MALE OR FEMALE; HOW WOMEN ARE TO ORDER THEMSELVES AFTER CONCEPTION.

SECT. I. What Conception is, and the Qualification requisite thereto.

CONCEPTION is nothing else but an action of the womb, by which the prolific seed is received and retained, that an infant may be engendered and formed out of it. There are two sorts of conception; the one according to nature, which is followed by the generation of the infant in the womb; the other is false and wholly against nature, in which the seed changes into water, and produces only false conception, moles, or other strange matter. Now there are three things principally necessary in order to a true conception, so that generation may follow; to wit, diversity of sex, congression, and emission of seed. Without diversity of sexes there can be no conception: for though some will have a woman to be an animal that can engender of herself, it is a great mistake; there can be no conception without a man to discharge his seed into her womb. What they allege of pullets laying eggs without a cock's treading them is nothing to the purpose, for those eggs, should they be set under a hen, will never become chickens, because they never received any prolific virtue from the male, which is absolutely necessary to this purpose, and is sufficient to convince us that diversity of sex is necessary even to those animals as well as to the generation of man. But diversity of sex, though it be necessary to conception, yet it won't do alone; there must also be a congression of those different sexes, for diversity of sex would profit little if copulation did not follow. I confess I have heard of some subtile women who, to cover their sin and shame, have endeavoured to persuade some person that they were never touched by man to get them with child; and that one in particular pretended to conceive by going into a bath where a man had washed himself a little before and spent his seed in it, which was drawn and sucked into her womb, as she pretended. But such stories as these are fit to amuse them that know no better. Now that these different sexes should be obliged to come to the touch, which we call copulation or coition, besides the natural desire of begetting their like, which stirs up men and woman to it, the parts appointed for generation are endowed by nature with a delightful and mutual itch, which begets in them desire to the action; without which it would not be very easy for a man born for the contemplation of divine mysteries, in join himself by the way of coition to a woman, in regard of the uncleanness of the part and of the action: and on the other side, if women did but think of those pains and inconveniences to which they are subject by their great bellies, and those hazards even of life itself, besides the unavoidable pains that attend delivery, it is reasonable to believe they would he affrighted from it. But neither sex make these reflections till after the action is over, considering nothing beforehand but the pleasure of enjoyment. So that it is from this voluptuous itch that nature obligeth both sexes to this congression. Upon which the third thing followeth of course, to wit, the emission of seed into the womb in the act of copulation. For the woman haying received this prolific seed into her womb, and retained it there, the womb thereupon becomes compassed, and embraces the seed so closely, that, being closed, the point of a needle, as saith Hippocrates, cannot enter it without violence; and now the woman may be said to have conceived; being reduced by its heat from power into action, the seed abounds, and which are the instruments by which it begins to trace out the first lineaments of all the parts to which afterwards, of making use of the menstruous blood flowing into it, it gives in time growth and final perfection. And thus much shall suffice to show what conception is. I shall now proceed to show

 

SECT. II. The Signs of Conception.

THERE are many prognostics or signs of conception. I will name some of the chief, which are the most certain, and let alone the rest.

1. If a woman has been more than ordinary desirous of copulation, and hath taken more pleasure than usual therein (which upon recollection she may easily know), it is a sign of conception.

2. If she retain the seed in her womb after copulation; which she may know if she perceives it not to flow down from the womb as it used to do before; for that is a sure sign the womb has received into it the inward orifice and there retains it.

3. If she finds a coldness and chilliness after copulation, it shows the heat retired to make conception.

4. If, after this, she begins to have loathings to those things which she loved before, and this attended with a loss of appetite, and a desire after meats to which she was not affected before, and hath often nauseatings and vomitings, with sour belchings, and exceeding weakness of stomach.

5. After conception the belly waxeth very flat, because the womb closeth itself together, to nourish and cherish the seed, contracting itself so as to leave no empty space.

6. So it is if the tops of the nipples look redder than formerly, and the breasts begin to swell, and grow harder than usual, especially if this be attended with pain and soreness.

8. If a woman has twisting and griping pains, much like those of the cramp in the belly, and about her navel, it is a sign she has conceived.

9. If under the lower eye-lid the veins be swelled, and appear clearly, and the eye be something discoloured, it is a certain sign she is with child, unless she have her menses at the same time upon her, or that she has sat up the night before. This sign has never failed.

10. Some also make this trial of conception. They stop the woman's urine in a glass or phial for three days, and then strain it through a fine linen cloth, and if they find small living creatures in it, they conclude that the woman has certainly conceived.

11. There is also another easy trial. Let the woman that supposes she has conceived take a green nettle and put it into her urine, cover it close, and let it remain therein a whole night; if the woman be with child it will be full of red spots on the morrow; but if she be not with child it will he blackish.

12. The last sign I shall mention is that which is most obvious to every woman, which is the suppression of the terms. For, after conception, nature makes use of that blood for the nourishment of the embryo, which before was cast out by nature, because it was too great in quantity. For it is an error to think that the menstrual blood, simply in itself considered, is bad: because, if a woman's body be in good temper, the blood must needs be good; and that it is voided monthly is, because it offends in quantity, but not in quality. But though the suppression of the terms is generally a sure sign of conception, to such persons as have had them orderly before, yet the having them always is not a sign there is no conception. Forasmuch as many that have been with child have had their terms, and some even till the fifth or sixth month, which happens according to the woman's being more or less sanguine; for if a woman has more blood than will suffice for the nourishment of the embryo, nature continues to void it in the usual way. Whence the experienced midwife may learn there are few general rules which do not sometimes admit of an exception. But this shall suffice to be spoken of the signs and prognostics of Conception.

SECT. III. Whether Conception be of a Male or Female.

AUTHORS give us several prognostics of this, though they are not all to be trusted, yet there is some truth among them. The signs of a male child conceived are:

1. When a woman at her rising up is more apt to stay herself upon her right hand than her left.

2. Her belly lies rounder and higher than when she has conceived of a female.

3. She first feels the child to beat on her right side.

4. She carries her burden more light, and with less pain, than when it is a female.

5. Her right nipple is redder than the left, and her right breast harder and more plump.

6. Her colour is more clear, nor she so swarthy as when she has conceived a female.

7. Observe the circle under her eye, which is a pale and bluish colour; and if that under her right eye be moot apparent, and most discoloured, she has conceived a son.

8. If she would know she hath conceived of a son or a daughter, let her milk a drop of her milk into a basin of fair water; if it spreads and swims at top, it certainly is a boy; but if it sinks to the bottom, as it drops in round in a drop, it is a girl. This last is an infallible rule. And in all it is to be noted, that what is a sign of a male conception, the contrary holds good of a female.

 

SECT. IV. How a Woman ought to order herself after Conception.

MY design in this treatise being brevity, I shall pretermit all that others say of the causes of twins, and whether there be any such thing as superfoetations, or a second conception in a woman, which is yet common enough, when I come to show you how the midwife ought to proceed in the delivery of those women that are pregnant with them. But having already spoken of conception, I think it now necessary to show how such as have conceived ought to order themselves during their pregnancy, that they may avoid those inconveniences which often endanger the life of the child, and many times their own.

A woman, after conception, during the time of her being with child ought to be looked on as indisposed or sick, though in good health; for child-bearing is a kind of one month's sickness, being all that time in expectation of many inconveniences, which such a condition usually causes in those that are not well governed during that time; and therefore ought to resemble a good pilot, who, sailing in a rough sea and full of rocks, avoids and shuns the danger if he steers with prudence; but if not, 'tis a thousand to one but he suffers shipwreck. In like manner a woman with child is often in danger of miscarrying and losing her life, if she is not very careful to prevent those accidents to which she is subject all the time of her pregnancy; all which time her care must be double, first of herself, and secondly of the child she goes with; for otherwise a single error may produce a double mischief; for if she receives any prejudice, her child also suffers with her.

Let a woman therefore after conception observe a good diet, suitable to her temperament, custom, condition, and quality; and if she can let the air where she ordinarily dwells be clear and well tempered, free from extremes either of heat or cold; for being too hot, it dissipateth the spirits too much, and causeth many weaknesses; and by being too cold and foggy, it may bring down rheums and distillations on the lungs, and so cause her to cough, which by its impetuous motions forcing downwards, may make her miscarry; she ought also to avoid all nauseous and ill smells, for sometimes the smoke of a candle not well put out may cause her to come before her time; and I have known the smell of charcoal to have the same effect. Let her also avoid smelling of rue, mint, pennyroyal, castor, brimstone, etc.

But with respect to her diet. Women with child have generally so great loathings and so many different longings, that it is very difficult to prescribe an exact diet for them. Only this I think advisable, that they may use those meats and drinks which are to them most desirable, though perhaps not in themselves so wholesome as some others, and it may not be so pleasant; but this liberty must be made use of with this caution, that what she so desires be not in itself absolutely unwholesome; and also that in every thing they take care of excess. But if a child-baring woman finds herself with such longings as we have spoken of, and in such quantity as may be sufficient for herself; and the child, which her appetite may in a great measure regulate; for it is alike hurtful for her to fast too long as to eat too much, especially let her eat a little and often, especially let her avoid eating too much at night; because the stomach, being too, much filled, compresseth the diaphragms, and thereby causes difficulty of breathing. Let her meat be easy of digestion, such as the tenderest parts of beef, mutton, veal, sows, pullets, capons, pigeons and partridges, either boiled or roasted, as she likes best; new laid eggs are also very good for her; and let her put into her broths those herbs that purify it, as sorrel, lettuce, succory, and burrage; for they will purge and purify the blood: let her avoid whatsoever is hot seasoned, especially pies and baked meats, which, being of hot digestion, overcharge the stomach. If she desires fish, let it be fresh, and such as is taken out of rivers and running streams. Let her eat quinces, or marmalade, to strengthen her child; for which purpose sweet almonds, honey, sweet apples, and full, ripe grapes, are also good. Let her abstain from all sharp, sour, bitter and salt things, and all things that tend to provoke the terms; such as garlic, onions, olives, mustard, fennel, with pepper, and all spices, except cinnamon, which in the three last months are good for her. If at first her diet be sparing, as she increases in bigness let her diet be increased; for she ought to consider she has a child as well as herself to nourish. Let her be moderate in her drinking; and if she drinks wine, let it be rather claret than white (which will breed good blood, help the digestion, and comfort the stomach, which is always but weakly during her pregnancy), but white wine being diuretic, or that which provokes urine, ought to be avoided. Let her have a care of too much exercise; and let her avoid dancing, riding in a coach, or whatever else puts the body into violent motion, especially in her first month. But to be more particular I shall here set down rules proper for every month for the child-bearing woman to order herself, from the time she has first conceived to the time of her delivery.

 

Rules for the First Two Months.

As soon as a woman knows (or has reason to believe) she hath conceived, she ought to abstain from all violent motions and exercise, whether to walk on foot or ride on horseback, or in a coach, it ought to be very gently. Let her also abstain from venery (to which, after conception, she has usually no great inclination), lest there be a mole or superfoetation; which is the adding of one embryo to another. Let her beware she lift not her arms to high, nor carry great burdens, nor repose herself on hard and uneasy seats. Let her use moderately meat of good juice and easy digestion, and let her wine be neither to strong nor too sharp, but a little mingled with water; or if she be very abstemious, she may use water wherein cinnamon is boiled. Let her avoid fastings, thirst, watching, mourning, sadness, anger, and all other perturbations of the mind. Let none present any strange or unwholesome things to her, nor so much as name it, lest she should desire it, and so either cause her to miscarry, or the child have some deformity on that account. Let her belly be kept loose with prunes, raisins, or manna in her broth; and let her use the following electuary to strengthen the womb and the child.

"Take conserve of burrage, bugloss, and red roses, each two ounces; of balm an ounce, altrent peel and shebs, mirobolana candied, each an ounce; extract of wood aloes a scruple; pearl prepared half a dram; red coral, ivory, each a dram; precious stones each a scruple; candied nutmegs, two drams; and with syrup of apples and quinces make an electuary.

Let her observe the following Rules.

"Take pearls prepared, a dram; red coral prepared and ivory, each half a dram; precious stones, each a scruple; yellow citron peels, mace, cinnamon, cloves, each half a dram; saffron a scruple; wood aloes half a scruple; ambergrease six drams; and with six ounces of sugar dissolved in rose-water, make rouls." Let her also apply strengtheners to the navel, of nutmegs, mace, mastich, made up in bags, or a toast dipped in mamsey, sprinkled with powder of mint. if she happens to desire clay, chalk, or coals (as many women with child do), give her beans boiled with sugar; and if she happens to long for any thing which she cannot obtain, let her presently drink a large draught of pure cold water.

 

Rules for the Third Month.

IN this month and the next be sure to keep from bleeding; for though it may be safe at other times, it will not be so to the end of the fourth month; and yet If too much blood abound, or some incident disease happen, which requires evacuation, you may use a cupping glass, with scarification, and a little blood may be drawn from the shoulders and arms, especially if she has been accustomed to bleed. Let her also take care of lacing herself too straitly, but give herself more liberty than she used to do; for inclosing her belly in too strait a mould, she hinders the infant from free growth, and often makes it come down before its time.

 

Rules for the Fourth Month.

IN this month you ought also to keep the child-bearing woman from bleeding, unless in extraordinary cases; but when this month is past, blood-letting and physic may be permitted, if it be gentle and mild; and perhaps it may be necessary to prevent abortion. In this month she may purge in an acute disease; but purging may be only used from the beginning of this month to the end of the sixth; but let her take care that in purging she use no vehement medicine, nor very bitter, as aloes, which is an enemy to the child, and opens the mouth of the vessels; neither let her use Coloquintida, schammony, nor turbith; she may use cassia, manna, rhubarb, agaric and senna; but dyacidonium purgans is best, with a little of the electuary of the juice of roses.

 

Rules for the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Months.

IN these months child-bearing women are often troubled with coughs, heart beating, fainting, watching, pains in the loins and hips, and bleeding. The cough is from a sharp vapour that comes to the jaws and cough artery from the terms, or from the thin part of that blood gotten into the veins of the breast, or falling from the head to the breast; this endangers abortion, and strength fails from watchings; therefore purge the humours that fall from the breast with rhubarb and agaric, and strengthen the head as in a catarrh, and give sweet lenitives as in a cough. Palpitation and fainting arise from vapours that go to it by the arteries, or from blood that aboundeth, and cannot get out at the womb, but ascends, and oppresses the heart; and in this case cordials should be used both inwardly and outwardly. Watching is from sharp dry vapours that trouble the animal spirits; and in this case use frictions, and let the woman wash her feet at bed-time, and lot her take syrup of poppies, dried roses, emulsions of sweet almonds and white poppy seeds. If she be troubled with pains in her loins and hips, as in these months she is subject to be from the weight of her child, who is now grown big and heavy, and so stretcheth the ligaments of the womb and parts adjacent, let her hold it up with swathing bands about her neck. About this time also the woman often happens to have a flux of blood, either at the nose, womb, or haemorrhoids from plenty of blood, or from the weakness of the child that takes it not in, or else from evil humours in the blood that stirs up nature to send it forth. And sometimes it happens that the vessels of the womb may be broken, either by some violent motion, fall, coughs or trouble of mind (for any of these will work that effect); and this is so dangerous that in such a case the child cannot be well; but if it be from blood only, the danger is no less, provided it flows by the veins of the neck of the womb, for then it prevents plethory, and takes not away the nourishment of the child; but if it proceeds from the weakness of the child that draws it not, abortion of the child often follows, or hard travail, or else she goes beyond her time. But if it flows by the inward veins of the womb there is more danger by the openness of the womb if it come from evil blood; the danger is alike from cacochimy, which is like to fall. upon both. If it arises from plethory, open a vein, but with very great caution, and use astringents, of which this following will do well; "Take pearls prepared, a scruple; red coral, two scruples; mace, nutmegs, each a dram; cinnamon, half a dram; make a powder, or with sugar rouls." Or give this powder in broth: "Take red coral a dram; half a dram precious stones, each half a scruple; red sander, half a dram; fiole a dram; sealed earth, tormentil roots, each two scruples, with sugar of roses, and manus Christi; with pearl, five drams, make a powder." You may also strengthen the child at the navel; and if there be a cacochimy, alter the humours; and if you may do it safely, evacuate. You may likewise use amulets in her hands and about her neck; and let her drink hot wine with a toasted nutmeg. In these months the belly is also subject to be bound; but if it be without any apparent disease, the broth of a chicken, or of veal sodden with oil, or with the decoction of mallows, or marsh-mallows, mercury, and linseed put up in a clyster, will not be amiss, but in less quantity than is given in other cases; to wit, of the decoction five Ounces, of common oil three ounces, of sugar two ounces, of Cassia Fistula One ounce. But if she will not take a clyster, one or two yolks of new laid eggs, or a few pease pottage warm, with a little salt and sugar, supped up a little before meat, will be very convenient. But if her belly shall be distended, and stretched out with wind, a little fennel seed and aniseed reduced into powder, and mingled with honey and sugar, made after the manner of an electuary, will do very well. Also if the thighs and feet swell, let them be anointed with oxphrodinum (which is a liquid medicine made with vinegar and rose water) mingled with a little salt.

 

Rules for the Eighth Month.

THE eighth is commonly the most dangerous and therefore the greatest care and caution ought to be used, and her diet ought to be better in quality, but not more, nor indeed so much in quantity as before; but as she must abate her diet, so she must increase her exercise; and because then women with child, by reason the sharp humours alter the belly, are accustomed to weaken their spirits and strength, they may well take before meat an electuary of Diarrhodon or Aromaticum Rosatum, or Diamargarton; and sometimes they may lick a little honey, as they will loathe and nauseate their meat, may take green ginger, condited with sugar or the rinds of citron and oranges condited; and let her often use honey for the strengthening of the infant. When she is not far from her labour, let her eat every day seven roasted figs before meat, and sometimes let her lick a little honey. But let her beware of salt and powdered meat, for it is neither good for her nor the child.

 

Rules for the Ninth Month,

IN the ninth month let her have a care of lifting any great weight; but let her move a little more to dilate the parts, and stir up natural heat. Let her take heed of stooping, and neither sit too much nor lie on her sides; neither ought she to bend herself much, lest the child be unfolded in the umbilical ligament, by which means it often perisheth. Let her walk and stir often, and let her exercise be rather to go upwards than downwards: Let her diet now especially be light and easy of digestion; as damask prunes with sugar, or figs and raisins before meat; as also the yolk of eggs, flesh and broth of chickens, birds, partridges, and pheasants; astringent and roasted meats, with rice, hard eggs, millet, and such like other things are proper; baths of sweet water with emollient herbs, ought to be used by her this month with some intermission. And after the bath let her belly be anointed with oil of roses and violets; but for her privy parts it is better to anoint them with the fat of hens, geese, or ducks, or with oil of lilies, and the decoction of linseed and fenugreek, boiled with oil of linseed and marshmallows, or with the following liniment:

"Take of mallows and marshmallows, cut and dried, of each an ounce; of linseed one ounce; let them be boiled from twenty ounces of water to ten; then let her take three ounces of the boiled broth; of oil of almonds, and oil of flower-de-luce, of each one ounce; of deer's suet, three ounces; let her bathe with this herself with it warm."

If for fourteen days before the birth she do every morning and evening bathe and moisten her belly with muscadine and lavender water, the child will be much strengthened thereby. And if every day she eat toasted bread it will hinder anything from growing to the child. Her privy parts may be also gently stroked down with this fomentation:

"Take three ounces of linseed; of mallows and marshmallows sliced, of each one handful; let them be put into a bag and boiled immediately"; and let the woman with child every morning and evening take the vapour of this decoction in a hollow stool, taking great heed that no wind or air come to her in any part, and then let her wipe the part so anointed with a linen cloth, that she may anoint the belly and groin as at first. When she is come so near her time as to be within ten or fourteen days thereof, if she begins to feel any more than ordinary pain, let her use every day the following:

"Take mallows and marshmallows, of each one handful; camomile, hard mercury, maiden hair, of each half a handful; of linseed, four ounces; let them be boiled in such a sufficient quantity of water as may make a broth therewith:" But let her not sit too hot upon the seat, nor higher than a little above her navel: nor let her sit on it longer than about half-an-hour, lest her strength languish and decay; for it is better to use it often than to stay too long in it. And thus have I shown how a child-bearing woman ought to govern herself in each month of her pregnancy; how she must order herself at her delivery, shall be shown in another chapter, after I have first shown the industrious midwife how the child is formed in the womb, and the manner of its decumbiture there.

 

Previous Next